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2010-04-20

Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Agenda full this summer for University officials, regents

By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published April 19, 2010

While students are gone over the summer, University officials will be busy working to implement several changes that will have major implications for students when they return to campus next fall.

The changes, which often receive little attention from students away from campus over the summer, include routine items like reviewing tuition and housing rates. However, this summer, University President Mary Sue Coleman will be also be dealing with issues specific to this year including considering several changes to the Student Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and implementing a continuous enrollment policy for all Ph.D. students and candidates.

And that’s all before University officials appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in August as part of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by Michigan’s football program.

First on the agenda for Coleman will be reviewing the proposed revisions to the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Coleman is set to make the final ruling later this month on whether five proposed amendments will be put into effect for the next academic year.

The proposed changes include changing language in the student code to make it gender neutral, realigning the statement’s current nondiscrimination policy to match that of the University’s Board of Regents and adding intimate partner violence as a violation of the code.

A controversial amendment proposal that would have lowered the burden of evidence needed to convict a student of code violations from clear and convincing evidence to a preponderance of the evidence standard will likely not be implemented, after the Michigan Student Assembly withdrew its support for the proposal earlier this year.

However, in an interview with The Michigan Daily last month, Coleman said she couldn’t rule the proposed amendment out, saying she wasn’t familiar with what would happen in that situation.

“I can’t comment on them because I really don’t know yet what they’re going to be moving forward,” Coleman said in March, adding she didn’t know whether the burden of evidence proposal would be considered. “I don’t know. I mean, I assume not if it’s been withdrawn, but as I’ve said I haven’t gotten anything yet so I don’t know.

In June, Coleman will be leaving the country on a trip to China. During her visit, Coleman will be making several stops, including one at Shanghai Jiao Tong University — the school with whom the University has a joint institute — and at the world expo.

“I’m very much looking forward to that trip because I’m hoping that we’ll be solidifying this research relationship we have with Shanghai Jiao Tong,” Coleman said last month.

At the same time, University officials, including outgoing Provost Teresa Sullivan and incoming Provost Philip Hanlon, will continue to work on finalizing the University’s budget for next year.

The finalized budget proposal will be presented to the University’s Board of Regents in June for a vote. In recent years, the regents have typically unanimously approved the budget proposal. However, last year when a 5.6 percent tuition increase was proposed, Regent Julia Darlow (D–Ann Arbor) and Regent Denise Ilitch (D–Bingham Farms) voted against the budget proposal, which still passed with a majority of votes.

University officials have remained silent on how much tuition might increase next year, but have hinted that a tuition increase is very likely.

In an interview after testifying before the State Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education last month, Coleman said both cost cutting and revenue enhancements were being considered.

“It’ll be a combination I think of looking at tuition revenue, looking at alternative offerings we could have in the spring and the summer,” Coleman said of the revenue enhancement options.

Aggressive cost cutting measures have been a staple on campus in recent years and Coleman has said she expects $22 million to be trimmed for next year. However, the number pales in comparison to the up to $68 million less in state appropriations that both Coleman and Sullivan have said the University may face.

Adding to an already busy summer, University officials are also set to appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in August as part of the ongoing NCAA probe into allegations that the Michigan football team violated association rules.

In February, the University was presented with a list of five specific charges, which included allegations that the University exceeded the number of allowable practice hours, allowed staff to conduct and monitor off-season workouts and that head coach Rich Rodriguez created an atmosphere of non-compliance.

Another controversial topic on the agenda for both University regents and administrators is the implementation of a continuous enrollment policy at the Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

The policy would mandate that all Ph.D. students and candidates enroll in all fall and winter semesters from matriculation to degree completion. Officials, including Rackham Dean Janet Weiss contend most students will notice little or no change because of the policy.

However, the policy has drawn a great deal of criticism from some Ph.D. students and candidates and from faculty members — including several who serve on the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, the leading faculty governance body.

Despite the opposition, the policy is set to be implemented next fall if the University’s Board of Regents approves a decrease to the Rackham Graduate tuition rates — a move administrators say is essential to make such a policy work.

However, according to Sullivan, the regents will not vote on the rest of the policy, as the tuition component is the only component that requires regential approval.

University officials and regents will also continue to evaluate the current endowment spending rule over the summer, with rumors circulating that they may decrease the annual payout.

Such a decrease could come amidst an already strained budget. However, officials — including Coleman and Timothy Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer — have said the University needs to consider both present and future needs.

The review of the payout is required by a motion passed by the regents in 2006 to change the way in which the University calculates the endowment’s value. Coleman and Slottow have both stressed that no decisions have been made yet and that an increase or decrease to the spending policy are both possible.

Finally, University officials will await a confirmation of reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission this summer. The nod does not have a specified time of release, but the University has already completed the entire process, and only needs a final ruling from the HLC.

In an interview last month, Sullivan said the University had already reviewed a copy of a draft report from the HLC site visit and evaluation committee, which was to be sent to the HLC’s board. After the board meets later this year, they will issue their final ruling.

While on site, the HLC site visit committee reported they were pleased with the University’s performance and indicated they would recommend to the HLC that the University be reaccredited. However, the HLC maintained one “reservation” in the area of the University's commitment to diversity — calling on the University to strengthen its efforts.

In last month’s interview, Sullivan called the reservation a sign of the HLC’s wish that the University continue to fight the ban on affirmative action.

“(Fernandez Calistino) wanted to be on record that our accrediting body wants us to be diverse, so that when the University gets sued the next time, we’re able to say ‘Even our accrediting body thinks that diversity is one of our strengths,’ ” Sullivan said of HLC site visit committee chairman’s comments on diversity.